Glimpsing Danaus Plexippus*

Luke 24:36b-48 – The 3th Sunday of Easter – for April 22, 2012

“You are witnesses of these things…” (Luke 24:48)

I swerved, just missed a butterfly smacking me.


(Image by via Flickr)

However—since I’m a 200-pound guy, and I rode my bicycle at 20mph, and a goofy-looking helmet protected my noggin—should it be: I avoided hitting a butterfly?

After all, who would’ve suffered more from actual impact? Chunky Larry or Madame Butterfly?

I’d been dashing along the bike trail, admiring the scenery, alert to other bicyclists and the occasional walker, mostly minding my own business. Then, whoosh! On the extreme left side of my peripheral vision, a winged creature spiraled into view. Duck…swerve…whoa! All creatures great and small survived the near miss.

It was my second butterfly encounter within the week. A few days before I lounged in a lawn chair after finishing yard work. Just passing the time. Just enjoying a spring afternoon. And then, floating by the orange tree, I spotted a monarch butterfly. For a leisurely moment, the Danaus plexippus did what butterflies do so wondrously well: it flitted about, a splash of brash gold and black against the tree’s green backdrop. Unlike an anxious, frenetic hummingbird or the proverbial buzzing (and so business-like) bee, the butterfly bided its time.

I watched, amazed at how my mind wandered until the insect disappeared into the neighbor’s yard.

Didn’t I see more springtime butterflies when I was a kid? Was that because I was a curious kid rather than a busy adult? Or, with the continuing onslaught of asphalt and concrete, with pesticides and global warming, have humans made the world more perilous for monarchs and their fellow winged Lepidopteras? I fear it’s more the latter than the former.

I then thought of Dan, a friend and pastor in the California town of Pacific Grove, the self-proclaimed “butterfly capital of the world.” There, monarchs arrive from a two thousand mile journey, creating an annual explosion of fragile glory. Viewing my temporary backyard companion prompted a brief prayer for Dan. I enjoyed the winged reminder of my buddy. Continue reading →

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Easter Sole

During Bible study classes I’ve taught, I may query the students about the three things Jesus asked his followers to go and do.

It’s a darn good Easter question.

Two answers usually come easily from the students: baptism and communion. (Or dunking and dining, to be flippant.)

While I won’t share lengthy insights about the profound theology and tradition of those rituals, few Christians doubt their importance. Whether a believer is liberal or conservative, traditional or radical, nearly all agree on communion’s reminder of holy nourishment and baptism’s call to a lifetime of discipleship. And so much more . . .

What about the third request?

Most don’t remember Jesus requested his followers to wash another’s feet. Maybe you’ve seen the Pope kneel to symbolically wash a few soles during Holy Week. Perhaps in your church you’ve done it on Maundy Thursday. Regardless of how it’s explained or remembered, ritually washed feet have lost out in “popularity” compared to dunking and dining.

I understand. We’re not a 24/7 sandal-wearing culture anymore. We’re well-heeled and high-heeled, Mary-Janed and wing-tipped, a people of many soles. A whole lot of folks, especially in contemporary American society, squirm over exposed tootsies. (Ohh, I’m ticklish. Arrgh, my toes are gnarly.) However, all flippancy aside, I’m grateful Jesus asked us to remember the humble act of serving another. Down and dirty, sandal to sandal, face to face, sole to sole . . . and of course, soul to soul.

We say on Easter, rightly so, Happy Easter! However, on this wondrous day, on this life and death and life again celebration, I pray to honor the three things Jesus asked us—me—to go forth and do. Yes, those Biblical requests have become formal, fancy liturgies. But all of us will break bread with another who hopes to be welcomed; all of us, wet or dry, seek community; and all of us are weary from the journey and need rest and care.

On one day, let us joyfully shout, Happy Easter! In every day, let us become a living response to Jesus’ simple, soulful requests . . .

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The Staggering Mystery

John 20:1-18 – Easter Sunday – for April 8, 2012

“The Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb…” (John 20:3)

Is there anything I could write about Easter to inspire, irk, deflate or deepen your faith? I doubt it.

Shrink-wrapped and ready for Easter...

You probably know what you’d answer if asked about the importance of Easter . . . and you’re the only one who’d know if what you said aloud is different from what you believed in your heart of hearts.

Easter is fact first, faith second. No, reverse the order.

It’s about the empty tomb. Or not.

Or this . . . aren’t we glad, when Peter eased into the tomb, that he spotted the “linen wrapping” used for Jesus’ body? But Peter’s discovery only occurred in John’s Gospel and therefore the added bonus of forensic evidence seems as flimsy as cheap muslin. How could John—the final Gospel written, the Johnny-come-lately account of Jesus’ life—have a disciple witness the burial garment and Matthew, Mark and Luke are silent, or “blind?” Without the fickle fabric, I wonder* if we’d have the centuries-long Shroud of Turin controversy? If John didn’t become part of the New Testament (and most gospels written in the early centuries of Christendom weren’t included), the folks embracing/rejecting claims about Turin’s (in)famous shroud wouldn’t have any Easter “material” to stitch together or tear apart.

Or this . . . isn’t it odd the word itself—Easter—has so little to do with Jesus the Christ’s resurrection? Convenient Wikipedia posits about the word’s etymology this way:

The modern English term “Easter” is the direct continuation of Old English Ēastre, whose role as a goddess is attested solely by Bede in the 8th century.[2] Ēostre is the Northumbrian form, while Ēastre is more common West Saxon.[3]

Huh? As a preacher, shouldn’t I fear a random layperson, some guy or gal who’s quietly occupied the pew all year long, abruptly rising before the sermon begins and asking—nay, demanding—an explanation for how Christianity’s holiest day got linked to a Northumbrian goddess? Whew! . . . it likely won’t happen. Most folks are too polite. Thank God. Continue reading →

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